Former Richmond forward’s accidental SOS sledge


Stephen Jurica burst onto the scene for the Richmond Football Club as a teenager back in 1995.

With his hulking frame, Jurica helped himself to bags of four and five goals in his fourth and fifth games respectively, the first of those coming in a loss to Carlton in Round 14.

Following that effort against the Blues where he was able to manhandle Full-Back of the Century Stephen Silvagni, the former Tigers forward admitted his naivety towards the situation having failed to obey coach John Northey’s orders.

“I remember ‘Swooper’ (Northey) telling me, ‘Don’t go body on body with SOS. He’s too big, too strong’,” Jurica told SEN’s Bob and Andy.

“I thought, ‘Ah yeah, I’ll have a go at this’. I couldn’t believe I kicked four on him.

“I was a pretty naive young kid not knowing too much about who’s who and I remember shaking his hand after the game and saying, ‘Thanks for the game, Serge’.

“And he just looked at me like who in the hell are you?

“So, it was very embarrassing.”

Andy Maher suggested perhaps it was a hidden sledge towards the Carlton champion.

“He might have thought that you were sledging him. He might have thought that was a deliberate attempt to get under his skin,” Maher said.

But Jurica was adamant that he simply made a mistake.

“Oh well, I was too clever. I didn’t even realise,” he laughed.

The promising full-forward was the talk of the town after his early-career exploits.

Bruce McAvaney, who described him as a “big, strapping colt”, also exclaimed “when you’re talking footy, you’re going to be talking Jurica”.

It was some sort of welcome to the footy world.

“It was pretty special,” he added.

“Kicking five in a drawn night game (against the Bombers) was pretty good. The week before I kicked four on SOS.

“Lots of people were getting excited. Rex Hunt was calling me ‘Jurassic’. Bruce McAvaney of course, you’re talking footy, you’re talking Jurica.

“It was pretty special.”

The South Fremantle product, who these days is a successful barrister, explained why his career did not reach full flight after the initial take-off.

He was seen as the perfect foil for favourite son Matthew Richardson, who had been struck down by a knee injury earlier in 1995, but it did not quite go to plan.

“I was playing really well under John ‘Swooper’ Northey. We had a change of coach (Robert Walls) and unfortunately he didn’t see me playing much footy in the seniors,” he said further.

“I had a few injuries as well. If I was a horse, you’d pretty much shoot me, I was no good.

“A mixture of things kind of happened but surprisingly I didn’t kick on from there for the few reasons I just mentioned.

“I was a bit of a flash in the pan. There was a lot of hype and excitement but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take it to the next level and play decent footy for a while.”

Jurica booted 21 goals in 13 games in his debut season of ‘95 before finishing his AFL career in 1997 with 18 games and 25 goals to his name.







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Viking Grace towed to Turku, Finland, after accidental grounding in Åland


VIKING GRACE arrived at the Port of Turku on Sunday evening after running aground in windy conditions close to the Port of Mariehamn, Åland Islands, on Saturday.

The passenger ferry began its journey with approximately 260 passengers and most of the crew on board shortly after 1pm on Sunday, after authorities had determined that the ferry had sustained no major damage in the accidental grounding and journey presented no safety risks.

A total of 331 passengers and 98 crew were aboard the ferry at the time of the grounding, which took place about 500 metres south of the Port of Mariehamn.

The ferry will be towed for further inspection and repairs to Turku Repair Yard in Naantali, South-west Finland, Johanna Boijer-Svahnström, the director of communications at Viking Line, told Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday.

Passengers from Åland who were aboard the vessel at the time of grounding disembarked in Mariehamn, while those from Sweden returned to Sweden aboard Viking Amorella.

Boijer-Svahnström on Sunday confirmed to YLE that the weather conditions had a role in the incident but underlined that the cause of the grounding will be determined as the investigation progresses.

“The wind reached gust speeds of roughly 30 metres per second. One gust had pushed the vessel against the shore,” Jan Hansen, the CEO of Viking Line, commented to YLE on Saturday.

A preliminary investigation into the incident has been launched also by the Safety Investigation Authority (OTKES).

Aleksi Teivainen – HT



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Andrew Moloney’s denied title over Joshua Franco due to contentious accidental headbutt ruling



Australian boxer Andrew Moloney has been controversially denied the WBA super flyweight title after being deemed to have headbutted opponent Joshua Franco.

Though Moloney convincingly had the better of the fight, the referee deemed an eye injury sustained by Franco had been caused by an “accidental headbutt” in the first round and, after half an hour of review, officials upheld the decision.

But replays showed any head-to-head contact was minimal at best while Moloney had landed several punches on Franco’s eye, any of which could conceivably have caused the injury.

Franco was unable to continue due to the injury, but the referee’s ruling that it had been caused by the headbutt meant the fight was ruled a “no decision”, instead of the TKO victory Moloney felt he had deserved.

“That eye was closed by 50 jabs,” Moloney said after the fight.

“I can’t believe that they took this away from me. I’ve trained my arse off the last five months, been away from my family. I can’t believe they didn’t give it to me.”

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Bob Arum, the promoter of the fight, said he was “disgusted” by the decision and that he and any future fights he promotes would “get the f**k out of Vegas”.

“People blame me because I’m the promoter, but I’ve got nothing to do with the god damn thing, I just want a fair adjudication,” Arum said.

“The referee made a mistake, and they [the officials] have his back, it’s clear. I mean, it’s not even close.”

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Robert Byrd, one of the replay officials, said he saw “two headbutts”.

“The punches only made it [the eye injury] worse,” he said.

The decision was widely panned across social media, with most observers sympathetic with Moloney.

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Even Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren chimed in, saying the Aussie was “robbed”.

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Jo Jorgensen, the US election’s accidental hero


The US is saved by libertarians, plus more tips and murmurs from the Crikey bunker.

US libertarian Jo Jorgensen (Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Ralph Nader 2020 Progressives feeling something between joy and relief at the end of the Trump presidency ought to send some thanks the way of the US election’s unsung hero, Jo Jorgensen.

Jorgensen is an academic who ran as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president. Taking her votes primarily from Trump, she received 1.2% of the vote in Georgia (where, at the time of writing, Biden leads by 0.2%), 1.5% in Arizona (where Biden leads by 0.5%) and 1.1% in Pennsylvania where Biden leads by 0.6%.

Walker on The weekend brought news that the Berejiklian government has appointed Lang Walker to the board of the Powerhouse Museum.

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Jeremy Sims’s remake of Rams with Sam Neill is an accidental fable for our times


In Grimur Hakonarson’s original, which won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2015, brothers Gummi and Kiddi live side by side but haven’t spoken for 40 years. Though billed as a comedy, it is a bleak (albeit beautiful) piece of work that ends tragically in a blizzard.

Sims’ version, which stars Sam Neill as Colin and Michael Caton as Les – with English actress Miranda Richardson as the local vet – lightens the tone, broadens the reach, and leaves audiences with a little glimmer of hope, despite swapping bushfire for snowstorm. But the core story remains the same: a disease infects the sheep of the valley, health authorities issue a strict order to destroy all the animals in order to protect other regions, and one brother decides he won’t have a baa of it.

Whether that makes him the hero or the villain of the piece is very much open to interpretation.

“Human beings very rapidly turn necessity into bureaucratic authoritarianism,” says Sims. “It’s constantly a danger in a situation like this, that we overstep the mark and we trash our freedoms at the same time.

“I’m not saying where I stand on that argument completely, but I understand Colin saying, ‘Look, you don’t need to wipe out every single sheep in the entire valley; I’m going to isolate some because I love them and I trust my ability to look after them, and I’m not prepared to just let them be sacrificed’.

“Maybe he’s not right; maybe there will be people watching the film saying ‘you have to kill your sheep’. I think people will be divided about whether he does the right thing or not, because the potential is always there that he does infect the next batch and they have to take two years longer to clean the valley.”

Sims, left, with Michael Caton, who also starred in the director’s 2015 film Last Cab to Darwin. The pair first worked together on the late-night soapie Chances in the early 1990s. Credit:Graham Tidy

If the events of this year have inadvertently made Rams a political tale, in another respect it was always going to take a stand, COVID or not.

The director of Beneath Hill 60, Last Cab To Darwin and the documentary Wayne (about motorcycle champion Wayne Gardner) cites former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s maxim “there’s no such thing as society” as the windmill against which he repeatedly tilts.

“Most of my films are a rebuttal of that sentence,” he says. “There are things in this film that seem particularly prescient, but the message that you can’t live on your own, without the love and goodwill of the people around you, that you can’t really be happy without community, is at the core of nearly all my films.”

Rams is now screening at the Elsternwick Classic, Lido and Cameo Belgrave rooftop cinemas and at the Palace Westgarth courtyard cinema.

Email the author at kquinn@theage.com.au, or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin

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Actor Craig McLachlan tells court alleged inappropriate touching ‘could only have been accidental’


Entertainer Craig McLachlan has described kissing fellow performers on the lips backstage as “de rigueur and commonplace” in the world of showbusiness, as he defends himself against indecent assault charges in court.

He appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today by videolink from the chambers of his barrister, Stuart Littlemore QC, in Sydney.

The 55-year-old is facing several charges of assault and indecent assault.

The hearing began a year ago when four women alleged inappropriate behaviour by Mr McLachlan when he was performing in The Rocky Horror stage show in 2014.

The allegations included that Mr McLachlan pressed his penis against one of the women.

He is also accused of non-consensual kissing on the neck and mouth, and running his hand up the inner thigh of one of the women.

Mr McLachlan has always maintained his innocence and once again strongly defended himself against the accusations.

He told the court he would often hug and kiss his fellow performers to “encourage and congratulate” them.

“In show business, kissing between performers … it is de rigueur,” he said.

“It is commonplace, it is common practice.”

Court told woman ‘shared sensitive secrets’

But he denied his words or actions ever had a sexual meaning, connotation or ambition.

He said any inappropriate touching on stage “could only have been accidental”.

Mr McLachlan said he was “stunned and flabbergasted” when he found out about the allegations.

“I found it quite paradoxical,” he said.

One of the complainants would regularly sit on his lap in her underwear and confide in him, he said.

“She shared with me certain sensitive secrets, if I could put it in that way,” he told the court.

The same woman would flick him on the bottom, he said.

Mr McLachlan left his lawyer’s office in Sydney with partner Vanessa Scammell after today’s hearing.(ABC News)

He said another complainant would “enthusiastically” compliment the look of his bottom.

“Hey mister, that’s a great ass, seriously as great asses go, that’s a great ass,” he recalled her saying.

“Keep squatting babe, it’s working for you.”

He said she would also “goose” him, which involved thrusting her fingers between his buttocks as a practical joke.

Once she also cupped his pectoral muscles with her hands and joked “my boobs were bigger than hers,” Mr McLachlan said.

Craig McLachlan stands on stage in a black corset and tights in costume as Frank-N-Furter.
Craig McLachlan played the roll of Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show in 2014.(Facebook: Rocky Horror Show Australia)

He said he was speaking hyperbolically when he told the woman “I can’t stop thinking about you” and “I might be falling in love with you”.

“To support or encourage, I mean she was not doing well at this stage,” he explained.

“I wanted to finish our brief meeting with a joke.”

He said a feud was going on at the time between the woman and another cast member.

“She couldn’t wait to finish, she couldn’t wait to get home,” he said.

Craig McLachlan ‘devastated’ by woman’s allegations

He said “horseplay” or “jokey pranks” were frequent backstage between members of the cast.

“Almost daily” he would tell male and female members of the production they were “the secret love of my life”.

He said he and another complainant expressed their love for each other, but they did not mean it in a romantic way.

He described her as an “enthusiastic participant” in practical jokes like “wedgies” and “dacking” and the most vulgar person he had ever met.

“She is without doubt the most vulgar woman I know,” he said.

“In fact, she would be the most vulgar woman I have ever encountered.”

He said he was “devastated and deeply distressed” when he found out the woman had alleged inappropriate touching during a scene.

“It would have been impossible to do what she alleges,” he said.

Mr McLachlan will continue giving evidence on Wednesday.



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Editor’s accidental text sparks Ballarat council candidate complaint over newspaper’s alleged bias


A former mayor and council election candidate is accusing a regional Victorian newspaper of attempting to sway a local government election.

Samantha McIntosh is one of eight candidates vying for three vacancies in the Central Ward of the upcoming Ballarat City Council election.

Ms McIntosh, who served as mayor between 2016-2019, has accused weekly newspaper The Ballarat Times of running a campaign aimed at discrediting her and disrupting this month’s local government elections.

The Times News Group, which publishes the newspaper, has rejected any assertation of improper reporting and says it has never run a campaign against Ms McIntosh.

How it all unfolded

Ms McIntosh’s claims were sparked by a text message she inadvertently received from the Ballarat Times’ newspaper editor, Alistair Finlay.

The Ballarat Times has run extensive coverage of the Ballarat City Council election.(Supplied: The Ballarat Times)

The message was about her, not for her, and included a directive that she believes revealed the newspaper’s bias.

“To the point where she’s under so much pressure she literally ran away from my reporter yesterday.”

The message, which was leaked to the ABC, also included explicit language the ABC has chosen not to publish.

It was unclear who the message was intended for, but names Ms McIntosh.

Mr Finlay was contacted but declined to comment.

‘It took my breath away’

Ms McIntosh said she was floored by the text, which arrived in the midst of her council re-election campaign.

She said it took a few days to comprehend the text.

“I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” Ms McIntosh said.

“There’s a desire by a few to determine the outcome of a local council election and to use local media bodies to help direct the outcome.

“I believe these local council elections should be about our community’s right to voice their decisions, and little do they know there’s this influence.”

A picture of a woman in a garden
Samantha McIntosh trained as a disability nurse before spending 12 years with Ballarat City Council, including a stint as mayor.(Supplied: Samantha McIntosh)

Ms McIntosh has written to the Victorian Ombudsman, the local government inspectorate, the Victorian Electoral Commission and the Australian Press Council, asking for the newspaper’s actions to be investigated.

‘Unequivocally no’

The Times News Group has rejected any claims of bias against Ms McIntosh, or any other candidate.

Managing director of Ballarat Times News Group Warick Brown said he had received a complaint about one of the company’s journalists.

Mr Brown defended the work of the newspaper and how it had covered the upcoming election.

“I think the way that we report in the Ballarat Times is very evenly spread, it’s all about mainly the facts,” Mr Brown said.

Ms McIntosh said the text messages from the newspaper’s editor were concerning.

“I’m sick of the behaviour,” she said.

“This has gone on for a long time and it’s not OK for our council elections to be played with.”

But the newspaper’s managing director Warick Brown said there was no bias to be seen in his team’s coverage.

“We’re here to report on all the candidates that are vying for certain ward positions,” Mr Brown said.

“We completed a really equal platform for all candidates to talk about themselves and to pitch for themselves.”

A full-page advertisement in a newspaper that says 'Vote 1 Samantha McIntosh'.
Samantha McIntosh has taken out significant advertising space in local newspapers, including The Ballarat Times.(Supplied: Samantha McIntosh Facebook)

‘If we don’t call it out, it won’t stop’

The former mayor said she and her husband have since met with Mr Finlay who apologised profusely.

Ms McIntosh said she wanted to call out the actions and take a stand against media interference.

“I believe if we do not call it out publicly, it will not stop,” she said.

“But if this starts to impact the outcome of a local council election, it needs to be called out. Not in a year’s time, but now.”



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More accidental drug overdose fatalities in Tasmania than deaths on the roads


More Tasmanians have died from unintentional drug overdoses over the past five years than in car crashes, according to a new report.

There were 182 unintentional overdoses in Tasmania in the five years from 2014 to 2018, according to Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2020, released on Monday by independent drug organisation the Penington Institute.

In total, 166 Tasmanians died in car crashes over the same period.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council chief executive Alison Lai said it was not illicit drugs behind the majority of the overdoses, but rather wrongly taken or mixed prescription drugs.

“Obviously, when people think about overdose they might be thinking more about the illicit substances like heroin and, yes, I think probably in the past 10 years we may have seen, my understanding is, about one overdose of heroin here in the state but not much more than that — and the whole majority have come from those prescription medications.”

Prescription medications are behind most accidental overdoses in Tasmania, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council says.(ABC Radio Canberra: Penny Travers)

Penington Institute chief executive John Ryan said Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2020 painted a concerning picture of overdose in Tasmania and of a state struggling to come to terms with increasing use of several different types of drugs.

The report shows the number of overdoses was significantly higher than between 2004 and 2008 when 147 Tasmanians died of unintentional overdoses.

“Tasmania faces real challenges when it comes to drug use and overdose,” Mr Ryan said.

“People turn to drugs for different reasons. For some, they are a way of coping with a difficult time in their lives. For others, it is a response to a lack of opportunity. Of course, many people use drugs simply out of curiosity or to have a new experience.

According to the report, 34 Tasmanians died of unintentional overdoses in 2018, two more than in 2017, and up from 27 in 2013.

The report also showed:

• 59 unintentional overdose deaths involving other pharmaceutical drugs such as anti-depressants and anti-convulsants in the five years from 2014-18, compared with 40 in the five years from 2004 to 2008

• 54 unintentional overdose deaths involving benzos in the five years from 2014-18, compared with 52 in the five years from 2004 to 2008

• 47 unintentional overdose deaths involving pharmaceutical opioids such as oxycodone and codeine in the five years from 2014-18, compared with 38 in the five years from 2004 to 2008

• 29 unintentional overdose deaths involving stimulants such as methamphetamine ice in the five years from 2014-18, compared with just nine in the five years from 2004 to 2008

Unintentional overdose can affect people from all walks of life

Ms Lai said the report showed the need to educate the community about the risk of overdose from prescription drugs and that unintentional overdose can affect people from any area or walk of life.

“Drug use tends to be a topic that makes people a little bit uncomfortable, it can be one that people feel like they might be a little bit judged or a little bit unsure about how to start a conversation about it and I think that’s one of the key areas that we really do need to work on,” she said.

Headshot of Alison Lai standing in front of a brick wall
Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council Tasmania chief executive Alison Lai says the report shows the need to educate the community about the risk of overdose from prescription drugs.(Supplied: Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Council Tasmania)

“There are a range of reasons why people might have an unintentional overdose.

“There are stories that we’re aware of where individuals will be taking just one medication like an opiate medication over a long period of time, they develop a tolerance to that and then they might be too hesitant to speak to their GP because they start modifying their own medication.

“We hear of people who take multiple medications and when they bring alcohol into the mix may have forgotten that they’ve already taken their dose so they accidentally take it again.

“So there’s a whole range of reasons why individuals might find themselves at risk and the thing that we constantly and consistently are saying to the community is that if you are taking any sort of prescription medication to always make sure that you are talking to your doctor or your pharmacist if you are unsure about how your prescriptions might mix together.”

Mr Ryan said the Penington Institute welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s recent announcement of a trial of free take-home Naloxone.

“We know that Naloxone is one of the most effective interventions we have to respond to opioid overdose. But it’s just one of several policy responses every state should be enacting,” Mr Ryan said.

“To make sustained progress to reducing overdose deaths, we need to address the structural factors of drug use: better education, understanding the factors that motivate use, working with communities to implement localised responses, and reducing the pervasive stigma around drugs.”



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Adelaide Crows’ Reilly O’Brien calls West Coast Eagles ruck opponent Nic Naitanui ‘lazy and unfit’ in accidental tweet


Adelaide Crows ruckman Reilly O’Brien says a broken phone is to blame for a tweet in which he called West Coast ruck Nic Naitanui “lazy and unfit”.

O’Brien, who is due to face All-Australian Naitanui on Saturday afternoon, swiftly deleted the tweet which featured his game notes for the fixture and released a follow-up video explaining the situation.

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“I’ve had an absolute mare on social media today,” O’Brien said.

“I tweeted some of my game notes on my iPhone. I take these notes every week to give myself a bit of confidence, and try to pump myself up going into the game.

O’Brien was quick to sing the praises of his upcoming opponent. Naitanui is yet to respond.

Adelaide Crows player Reilly O'Brien runs away from a pack of Carlton players.
Reilly O’Brien’s Crows are yet to win a game in 2020.(AAP: David Crosling)

“I’m coming up this week against who I think is probably the best ruck in the competition at the moment, NicNat.

“I was just trying to get some confidence and get going, so I’ve really put some pressure on myself now.

“I’ve got to walk the walk now and get a kick against the superstar that is NicNat, so we’ll see how I go.”

The notes suggested O’Brien will be looking to “run off [Naitanui] hard”, as he will be able to “have a field day getting ball and marking everything”.

The Adelaide Crows also tweeted their own light-hearted response.

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Adelaide is enduring a difficult season, and is winless after five games ahead of a clash with the Eagles at the Gabba.



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Coronavirus turned these families into accidental homeschoolers, and they’re not looking back


Arianwen Harris used to joke that homeschooling was her “worst nightmare”.

“I’ve never wanted to homeschool,” she said.

“I’ve got friends that homeschool and I’ve been really impressed with the work that they do with their kids, but I just never thought it was something that I would be capable of doing.”

Ms Harris and her boys Ziyad and Yazid had a rocky start to home learning, juggling the regimented plans and different timetables set by the children’s school.

But after more than a month helping her nine and five-year-old learn from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Harris is no longer joking.

“It’s challenging, but we’re enjoying lots of it,” she said.

Kylie Pearson says by working with her daughters, she realises how they’re slipping through the cracks.(Supplied: Kylie Pearson)

The Queanbeyan family has begun the process of registering for longer-term homeschooling after seeing how well the children were doing at home, especially the eldest.

“He had been struggling with reading and spelling at school, but because we’re at home now and we’re getting to do lots of reading, he’s really making great strides in that, because we can do loads more one-on-one reading,” Ms Harris said.

She said the family had tied in activities the children enjoyed, such as cooking, media and Pokémon, with their school-provided learning.

West of Melbourne, in Werribee, Kylie Pearson tells a similar story. The singing and music teacher has three daughters in primary school, and said she was considering homeschooling when schools reopened properly and the pandemic eased.

“Two of my kids are on the spectrum, one with ADHD as well … and I’ve just noticed how they’re slipping through the cracks,” she said.

Tasmanian mum Kylie Pearson with her daughters on a trampoline.
Kylie Pearson acknowledges homeschooling “might not work for all kids”.(Supplied: Kylie Pearson)

She has been surprised by gaps in her children’s abilities to tackle maths problems and one daughter’s struggle with handwriting, which was affecting many of her school tasks.

“I’m not naive, homeschooling might not work for all the kids. But just knowing that’s an option is really great,” Ms Pearson said.

She said practically, homeschooling could work for her family because she worked flexible hours from home and they had plenty of space and good internet access.

Accidental homeschoolers

Cat  Miedecke and family on their property in Tasmania,
Cat Miedecke says continuing homeschooling is a decision to be made on a child-by-child basis.(Supplied)

Many families have struggled with remote learning since the virus hit Australia, and even teachers have voiced fears about remote learning arrangements and online assessments models.

But Karen Chegwidden, from the Home Education Association in New South Wales, said Ms Harris and Ms Pearson were not the only parents seriously considering homeschooling or more flexible learning options post-coronavirus.

“We’re getting all the usual enquiries, but alongside that we’re getting enquiries from people who are thinking they might want to do it for a bit longer,” Ms Chegwidden said.

Cat Miedecke took her children out of school in Tasmania a little earlier than most because her eldest son has leukaemia and the risks of COVID-19 were too high.

She has five children, four of whom are school-aged and identified as gifted.

“We’ve found [learning from home] has been really advantageous because our children, being gifted children, are able to work at their own level and are able to work at a level above what might be on offer in a traditional school classroom,” she said.

Ms Miedecke, who is a qualified teacher, said she was strongly considering further homeschooling, but any decision would need to be made on a child-by-child basis.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other families who may not have felt they had the confidence to facilitate their gifted child’s learning now realising that they can do it, and now realising that hey, there are benefits.”

Rebecca English, an education lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, said she was not surprised some parents were finding benefits to learning from home.

Woman with shoulder length brown hair holds her baby and kisses it on the back of its head
Home education expert Rebecca English says many families find benefits in homeschooling.(Supplied: Rebecca English)

“I imagine that for families, particularly those who have a child who might be gifted and talented, maybe they have a child with a diagnosis such as ASD (autism spectrum disorder) or children who are ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or maybe children who have had some trauma in the past might be finding the working from home much more relaxing and calming,” Dr English said.

“There’s not lots of issues in the classroom with their being distracted. For the gifted children then they’re able to sort of extend themselves and focus on their own interests and needs with their learning.”

Data from state and territory education departments shows there are about 22,000 children registered for homeschooling in Australia.

Dr English said the number has been growing in recent years, largely due to the rise of the “accidental homeschooler” — people whose child’s experience of bullying, learning difficulties or social difficulties at school had prompted homeschooling.

She said families who ended up homeschooling post-coronavirus would likely fall into that category: they didn’t set out to home educate but, through a serious of events, discovered their children were better served by being at home than at school.

Hopes for more flexible learning models

While some families have expressed interest in homeschooling beyond coronavirus, not all want to do it full-time.

Ms Chegwidden said in the same way that some people were now considering working from home part-time, she was now seeing more enquiries about part-time home education.

But only Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT allow students to do a combination of homeschooling and school attendance.

Other jurisdictions require students to be enrolled in full-time school, or in full-time home education, but not a mix of both (with various exemptions to full-time attendance such as medical needs).

In 2015, the NSW government supported a recommendation from a select committee inquiry to investigate the potential impacts of homeschooling students accessing school part-time, or for particular classes.

A statement from the NSW Education Department did not address whether that investigation had happened, but said it had no plans to enable concurrent enrolment in a government school and registration for homeschooling.

Ms Chegwidden said she would like to see more flexibility from schools and education departments post-coronavirus.

“If we can have lots of combinations of styles of learning and ways of delivering it, and that would include traditional schools, it would include [homeschooling] but it might include combinations of that, it might include days where you learn online … there are lots of possibilities,” she said.

Flexible learning without ‘extreme’ of homeschooling

Education expert John Hattie said the coronavirus lockdown was providing great opportunities for changes to learning and teaching.

Headshot of older male
Professor John Hattie says children in Singapore stay at home twice a year to practise e-learning because of past experience.(Supplied: John Hattie)

He said social media was proving an effective tool to help children ask questions of teachers and peers, and the situation was also giving opportunities for children to regulate their own learning.

“I hope that when we go back to the new normal, there’ll be opportunities for students to learn by themselves, in small groups and not necessarily always in the classroom,” he said.

Professor Hattie, who is chairman of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership and a professor with the University of Melbourne, said children who were good at self-regulating learning, or faced issues with distractions, could be helped by their parents.

“But I don’t think it’s a full-time job, I think those kids need more than what most parents can offer them, which is the expertise of teachers,” he said.

Professor Hattie said in general, he was not a fan of homeschooling for most children, with homeschooled children “only as good as their teacher”.

“But I’d be a fan of the schools working the other way round: with parents who are prepared to take on some of the tasks at home and do it from that perspective,” he said.

He said Australia could also look at Singapore, where since the SARS pandemic almost 20 years ago, it had been compulsory for children to stay at home twice a year to practise e-learning in case of any future lockdowns.

“I’m not so sure I’d want to formalise it so much that kids are at home two or three days a week [and] at school two or three days a week,” Professor Hattie said.

“I think there are opportunities in there to have some kids at home doing some things, having them in different parts of the school, working alone or in groups, using the media … without having to go to the extreme of home schooling.”

‘Not for everyone’

Arianwen Harris acknowledged she was likely in the minority of parents who had found the learning from home period more positive than negative.

“I think it’s working for us but that doesn’t mean I think it has to work for everyone,” she said.

“At the moment, I’m not thinking long-term. I think the registration process means we’d be enrolled in home-school till the end of the year and that for me seems like a place to reassess where we’re at.”

But she hoped there would be opportunities for other families too.

“I guess that’s one of the silver linings of this shutdown, is we’re actually finding out there’s a whole range of things we didn’t think were possible that are possible.”

“And I hope we’re able, as society, to take some of that forward with us — some of that flexibility and willingness to try things out.”

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